Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Blue Gallery Without a theme to hold together the works on display here, the thing that unifies this show is the taste of gallery owners Kelly and David Kuhn. Viewers tend to come away with a vague feeling of connectedness but not a defining subject matter or style. We gravitate this time toward Joe Ramiro Garcia and Rich Bowman. Ramiro Garcia's painting "Helpless" might have spoken more loudly to us than usual because of the fast-approaching tax season. In it, a painted page from a ledger book details one man's finances and is blotted out here and there by a beautiful, errant flower; subtly squeezed into the lower right-hand corner, in the same writing used to log expenses, is a note-to-self: Ask for help. Meanwhile, Bowman's orangey paintings somehow manage to convey that they are landscapes and cityscapes at sundown, in spite of the fact that they involve very few markings. They are so minimal that they verge on abstraction. Works by several other artists represented by The Blue Gallery, 9 W. 19th St., 816-527-0823. (G.K.)

Meredith Burton, New Drawings Meredith Burton's adventures in magic-marker art continue, having debuted at the Telephone Booth last summer. Now her fruit-scented scenes (we don't know if she uses scented magic markers, but we like to pretend) are more elaborate and take greater advantage of the medium. Cityscapes are adorned with tattoolike wreath designs that yank the viewer's attention away from the scene itself. Looking at a drawing of a power line intersecting with a marquee or billboard, the viewer's eye will settle on that point of intersection, so Burton plops her decorative stylings on the middle of the power line itself, just where it begins to recede into the background. It seems she has started playing a lighthearted game of visual tug-of-war with her audience. And really, once you've chosen markers as your medium, why not? Now showing in the Cup and Saucer restaurant (not the bar next door) at 412 Delaware, 816-474-7375. (G.K.)

Go to Italy! Cobi Newton doesn't really want you to go to Italy. Her stated goal is to create -- using colors and design -- the feeling we get from daydreams of running away to the old boot-shaped country. Which is funny, because at first glance, the streamlined sensibilities of her work did not create that feeling for us at all. That might be because when we think of Italy, we imagine rolling hills, classical music, everything cooked in olive oil, jaw-droppingly beautiful people running around barefoot in the gentle sun and ... we digress. The point is, Newton's work pushed our thinking in another direction, reminding us that Italy also contains cities like Milan -- bustling, high-fashion places full of glamour and couture and window displays. The enameled, slightly curving lines in unlikely yet enticing color combinations (not unlike the mouth-watering palette contained in a bowl of spumoni) jump from one canvas to another before branching this way and that. They're like maps of foreign cities, with the unfamiliar public transit routes and networks of streets that look -- before you have actually walked through them -- an awful lot like abstract art. Through April 30 at the Jan Weiner Gallery, 4800 Liberty, by appointment only. Call 816-931-8755. (G.K.)

Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler: Editing the Dark Not a lot transpires in these three video installations by Kemper visiting artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, but it's what doesn't happen that makes them so unsettling. In Eight, a little girl in a pink party frock surveys the remains of an outdoor gathering in the rain. Plates of half-eaten food turn soggy, and she cuts herself a slice of cake. Inside, she's dry, clad in the same dress and looking out a window. The video plays in a loop, so the viewer is left to wonder if she's crying about a ruined party or about something else. Single Wide raises another set of unanswered questions. A woman destroys a trailer by driving into it with her truck. As the camera pans through the trailer's rooms, the sounds -- a ringing phone, a ticking clock, the drip-drop of a leaky faucet, a nearby train -- have a haunting quality that's as eerie as Hubbard and Birchler's stories. Through May 15 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd., 816-753-5784. (R.B.)

Donald Lipski and Mitch Kern A recent issue of Budget Living showed readers how to apply intricate, origamilike folding techniques to the pages of vintage books to create cheap art. Donald Lipski could probably teach those crafty types a thing or two. Lipski's book assemblages salute the written word yet render the books he uses mostly unreadable. Diverse tomes, from old encyclopedias to recent fiction hardcovers, are arranged into precise, orderly wreaths and stacks. In some works, everyday objects -- spoons, nickels, lemons -- add to the feeling that, in Lipski's hands, anything's fair game. Mitch Kern, meanwhile, shows portrait photographs of the people he met in Hungary. Through April 30 at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (R.B.)

Garry Noland: Cartographs When humble stacks of National Geographic magazines make their way into Garry Noland's studio, they're transformed from evergreen garage-sale finds into canvases. Coated with thick paint, the magazines become surfaces upon which Noland paints the outlines of states and countries. Some end up as political statements: In "Find Korea," Noland relocates the peninsula to the southeastern corner of the United States, where the viewer would expect to see Florida. Is Noland highlighting our lack of geographic knowledge -- or alerting us to a threat on the lower 48? The politically charged answer seems more likely. In Noland's "Homeland Security" sculpture, a tape-wrapped National Geographic stack looks at first like a low-slung work of minimalism, but in international Morse code, the placement of the tape reads: "Wolfy, Condy, Rummy, Cheney, Bushy, Saudi." Through April 9 at the Late Show; 1600 Cherry, 816-474-1300. (R.B.)

SNAFU: New Stencil Prints by Dave Lowenstein Because retail spaces need to be commercially viable, most art displays in restaurants and shops end up being vapid and unimaginative. You know: recontextualized van Gogh haystacks and starry nights. Cute. Harmless. Incapable of insulting anyone. The Olive Gallery and Art Supply Store has been an exception to that rule since it opened, and the show now on display is one of its most challenging yet -- a series of clean, technically exceptional stencils depicting muralist Dave Lowenstein's response to the war in Iraq. The most biting reflect on the mainstream U.S. media's war coverage. (Talking heads are portrayed by men in suits wearing chicken heads and serving up perpetual Thanksgiving turkey.) Not exactly unexplored territory in art these days, but skillfully executed. Through March 30 at 15 E. 8th St. in Lawrence, 785-331-4114. (G.K.)

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